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48. 8/13/21-From a former student

I was a full time student at this organization for 8 years. I started at the age of 13, and this was my first ever experience in a “theatre company” outside of doing middle school performances. Here’s what I have to say about this organization : Stage Right gave me wonderful opportunities to grow as an artist. I truly believe I found and developed my passion for theatre during my time at Stage Right. That being said, I’ve also had very dark moments at this place. Moments that still haunt me to this day, and I’ll never forget about. The behavior & “teaching methods” I witnessed were absolutely horrific, embarrassing, and humiliating. I do not agree at all with their practices and mental abuse from both the teachers and students. Kids came to Stage Right from all over looking for a special place to be themselves, be involved in the arts, and most importantly celebrate what makes them unique. Kids left with emotional scars and insecurities. Bullying was constant at Stage Right. Sometimes the adults & older teens were the main cause of this bullying. I’ve witnessed students laughing hysterically at kids during auditions for the summer camp shows. I’ve also witnessed students make fun of kids disabilities, sexual orientation, and appearance. This was daily, and coming from a place that preaches about love and acceptance, it was disgusting to see these things happen right in front of your eyes. At Stage Right you were either in the clique, or you were nothing. If you weren’t bestfriends with the artistic director’s son and daughter, you didn’t matter as much and had no chance of getting cast in a leading role. I wish the organization would focus on raw talent in casting, rather than basing it off who you’re friends with. If you didn’t spend every inch of your money on classes, private voice lessons, sensations, etc you were frowned upon, and ignored. If you did a school musical, you would face the wrath. I never gained the title of a “favorite” but during my time I’ve received multiple lead roles & the artistic director recognized my talent. I was often told by students “I didn’t deserve the roles I got because I didn’t take every class, and wasn’t fully committed.” I took a bunch of classes, did over 60 professional shows, and student company shows. My parents made sure school always came first, though. One thing I really want to get across is I myself, and several other students would be berated and screamed at by the artistic director, often. If you make a simple mistake in blocking or you miss a line, he would tear you apart, and embarrass you in front of all your peers. He would call you things such as a “dumbass” & say things such as “Dude, stop being so stupid. Get your head out of your ass.” These comments completely took a toll on my mental health. These type of things happening to me was the cause of my anxiety and depression. I just cannot believe that a lot of us kids thought this behavior was “normal” in the theatre world. We were all so young, and we just wanted to be accepted and do what we love. I will never forget staff members yelling at me constantly, and using offensive and harsh language. I will also never forget the abuse of power coming from “student leaders”. I always found myself wanting to prove myself, so I can get these “student leaders” to like me and accept me. These leaders had their “posse”. If you weren’t apart of it, they made sure to make your life a living hell. You should not have to prove yourself to anyone. Most of all I will never forget comments made about students bodies, including mine. I’m here to say that all bodies are beautiful, and all bodies are made for the stage. One thing I would like to state is you think these people are your “family” and right after you leave the organization they just drop you, and you never hear from them again… Nothing hurts more than that. In conclusion, the musical theatre world is far from the experiences several students faced in this organization. In the theatre world we lift each other up and support one another. We are loyal, and we are kind to every human. At the end of the day, we all love the same thing. I would like to see change in this organization & I want Stage Right to truly be a safe place for children. I don’t want children to worry about who’s saying what behind their back, and I don’t want children to be hurt and develop trauma from an organization that’s supposed to be safe. I believe Stage Right can be a wonderful place for kids to grow and do what they love, but we definitely need to see change happen first, so we don’t put kids at risk of having a negative experience, and having regrets later in life.

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